Is a Career Pivot Next?

266woman-head-spinningProfessionals who have successfully made a career change have done their homework. Have you been feeling unsatisfied or mismatched in your career or is it this job that you don’t like? It may be that the culture isn’t a fit or the environment is not what you expected. You may feel overwhelmed or under compensated. For some clients, the commute made everything unpleasant and stressful and that became the deal breaker.

• Are there recurring patterns in your life and is this another attempt to fix something else?
• What’s unsatisfying about your current situation?
• Who’s doing work that you think you might want to do?

Unless the situation is toxic, we don’t recommend quitting a job in the hopes that something better will appear. As part of our intake we ask clients the following: If we were to have an appointment at a local restaurant three years from now, what would have taken place in your life for you to be fully satisfied and fulfilled both personally and professionally?

If money, time or credentials were not issues, what would you be doing? If the client already has an answer, we will break that down into how-to achieve your goal steps. Then it’s time to look at your networks, identify people who are doing what you would like to do, request an informational interview and spend time with them. This step takes work but for the most successful career changers, they learn from being curious and diligent in their efforts to become informed.

Not uncommon, especially for Millenials is the burnout after 18-24 months of not having a satisfying job, quitting and returning to school. School may have been a safe place, where achievement was rewarded. Adding debt without a plan is always a mistake.

Change is rarely simple. There are financial questions to address, perhaps relocation and even the judgment about leaving a role that you trained for years to reach. It takes courage, persistence and a plan, all of which are doable.


Stress Less…Go Fly a Kite!

kitesI can fly a pretty cool kite, especially after we abandoned our yard and the kite eating tree for the open space of Maine beaches and the quasi-exclusive world of kite enthusiasts. Our kite is not of professional caliber but it is still cool because it was purchased on a trip to Sausalito. Yes, it was made overseas and could probably be purchased in other venues; however, it is a special California kite that survived a rigorous airport check-in and an overhead bin crunch to get here.

Kites were invented in China, where materials ideal for kite building were readily available: silk fabric for sail material; fine, high-tensile-strength silk for flying line; and resilient bamboo for a strong, lightweight framework. . Ancient and medieval Chinese sources describe kites being used for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting men, signaling, and communication for military and even rescue operations

I’d always associated flying kites as an activity for kids, simple and easy to assemble, rolled tightly and inexpensive. Anything more elaborate was a decoration, perhaps suspended from the ceiling or matching a designer’s vision of a room’s theme.

It’s joyful to see children with an adult, running to get a kite aloft perhaps after some stops and starts, watching it rise high above. Many of us have memories of such an experience and the delight in a successful lift-off on a windy day. But much more frequently, kites have become elaborate and colorful, often requiring strength to launch and monitor. Beaches are an attractive place with wide-open areas and running room. There is an art to moving the kite in tune with the air currents and I’ve yet to see an unhappy person working the lines from below. When there are multiples or very active kites to watch, people stop and pay attention. It’s almost hypnotic. It’s outdoors. And most of all, it’s fun for you and anyone who looks up for a minute or two or more!

• Buy a kite
• Go to the beach
• Go to the park
• Assemble as directed
• Fly the kite
• Share the joy
• Give it away
• Create new memories


Is Your Bucket List Getting Rusty?

bucketlist-listI don’t have a bucket list and if I did, it would have to be written in pencil with a large eraser and room for substitutions. Not that long ago bungee jumping was something I pictured as an exciting, adrenaline fueled experience. Yet after watching one in real time, it became abundantly clear that it was not a good match for me. On the other hand, when the opportunity for a tandem paragliding flight off the Grand Tetons was a possibility, I jumped at the chance. It was an amazing moment in time with a seasoned pilot and yes, I suppose it’s something to add to that “non-bucket” list of mine and cross off as completed.

The total experience of seeing the gliders overhead as they dipped and hovered like giant winged birds was magical. I knew that I also wanted to fly. Had I given it too much thought with my practical side considering costs, fear of a crash landing, injury and long term disability, I would have dismissed it out of hand. Unknown to me, my husband had also been captivated by the same scene earlier so when I broached the subject with him, he was on board. In an hour we were registered and paired with our pilots. Having credit cards committed, there was no time for second guessing and only the tingle of anticipation as we rode the gondola to the top. My husband recorded my take-off, and between the pilot’s camera and on ground photographer, there were multiples to review and listen to afterward.

Each time I watch the video, it’s a reminder of the pure joy and adrenaline rush from doing anything so out of my comfort zone. After the flight we signed up for white water rafting and fly-fishing. Why not? And when I feel anxious about presenting a new workshop or trying something closer to my freak-out zone, all I need to do is pull out my phone, watch that video and feel confident that this other stuff is a cakewalk.

What’s on your list of activities to try, places to visit or new skills to learn? There will always be time and/or financial considerations. I would love to fly to Paris in first class yet coach will suffice if Paris is my true, ultimate goal. Fill that “bucket” with exciting adventures ready to be plucked out and experienced, not buried with excuses in the graveyard of “Memories I Wish I Had”.


Sleep More, Improve Performance = Worry Less

sleep-deprivedThe brain does not have enough connections to do two complex tasks at the same time, yet we seem to take great pride in referring to how adept we are at multi-tasking. It’s a myth! In fact, not only does it deplete the brain’s resilience, but we actually have less resistance and discipline in the PM hours after a day of multi-tasking. No wonder people often turn to snacking and eating foods they would not choose earlier in the day.

Research has found that women  who tend to multi-task more during the day, use more brain power and need more sleep than their male counterparts. They also feel the effects of sleep loss more acutely. Altering your sleep patterns may reduce anxiety according to researchers at SUNY Binghamton. Of 100 people polled, those who went to bed later and slept for shorter periods had the most severe symptoms of worry and negative thinking.

Everyone knows the sleep warriors, those people who brag about only needing minimal hours in bed, sometimes as few as four. They say that they can accomplish more by rising at 5:00am to hit the ground running and continue at a brisk pace through the day. For the rest of us, six to seven hours of sleep is recommended and of course, eight if possible.

However, sleep plays an important role in our physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke.

So, who’s right and is there a true debate around what is necessary to maintain good health for everyone? A simple starting point is to check-in with yourself. Do you find that you are exhausted, irritable and anxious? Do you regularly hit the snooze button or take a long time to get going in the morning? Are you feeling sluggish and not fully engaged until mid-morning?

A new routine could be the answer and good sleep hygiene includes consistent behaviors that signal a slowing down at the end of the day. Setting an alarm for a bedtime as well as a wake-up time may be the additional reminder to help you begin a more disciplined approach to sleep.


The “Mother” of Invention

we can do itjpgWhat do the following have in common?
• Bulletproof vests
• Fire escapes
• Windshield wipers
• Laser printers

The answer is that they were all invented by women, smart, imaginative women, not cautious observers on the sidelines. Of course there are many more inventions that were created by women, but these are not in the so called, “pink industries” or women’s product ghettos. Why are fashion or cosmetics or family focused inventions marginalized by using dismissive language to describe their category placement? These are multi-billion dollar industries and growing every day.

How many more good or even great ideas have been passed on before they’ve ever had a chance to see the light of day? Afraid to fail? Get it right the first time! Women are diagnosed with depression and anxiety twice as often as men. According to Harvard psychologist, Shelley Carson, “ If someone criticizes her work, a woman is more likely to walk away, tail between her legs, and sulk, while a man tends to be aggressive and fight back: ‘You don’t like that one? Here try this idea!’ Perhaps testosterone does play a part in this responsive behavior. She states further, “Women have been socialized to please, and when we don’t, we feel bad about ourselves.”

According to other sources, women take missteps more personally than men do. We tend to be “intropunitive,” blaming ourselves for failure, whereas men are more likely to attribute failure to circumstances and the actions of others. Women tend to ruminate more, replaying and magnifying the setback and thereby increasing the temptation to quit.

So, how do we get beyond abandoning an idea or innovation? How can we turn on the creativity machine and turn off the inner voice? How big a part does fear of criticism or failure have to do with your success? We regret the things we did not do, far more than the things we did. Begin with your own process:
• Notice what you are observing and maintain an idea book.
• Brainstorm/discuss your idea/approach with a trusted group for feedback
• Pivot and change your strategy as needed
• Consider setbacks as learning lessons
• Don’t be afraid…Be inspired!


Procrastination is the Thief of Time

slowdown500How much do we actually accomplish when fully engaged in avoidance mode? What does it take to get back on track?

Five frogs are sitting on a log. Four decide to jump off.
How many are left? FIVE
That’s the difference between deciding and doing!

Even the most motivated people are not always on task. Often the most seemingly busy people, those constantly occupied, are in reality accomplishing very little. Yet, the TV watcher, who we can readily identify is perhaps the most honest of all…doing nothing.

When you are in action; cleaning, reorganizing, or purging the space, it feels like you are industrious. Activity like this is measureable, producing immediate results, unlike the outcomes from other endeavors that may not be so obvious.

One client, who dreaded tax season, always scheduled a major home renovation simultaneously, compounding her anxiety. Her assumption was that as long as she was going to be sequestered in her home office anyway, she could also supervise the other projects too. After the “dust” settled, we looked at the consequences of her actions and how this compromised her relationships, health and overall well being. The physical upheaval around her made it easier to avoid focusing on the task at hand, her tax filings, which were the priority. Once she was able to see that it was possible to do some preparation monthly, her calendar became her most effective tool. With long term goals in place for the year ahead, she was able to space projects, arrange her time commitments accordingly and never have a contractor near her home in the spring.

• What are you procrastinating about?
• What is one small step that you can take now?
• Write it down
• Put it in your calendar
• Do it!


Women Can’t do Math? Nonsense

inventhedyHow many times have you heard people say how much they hated math, couldn’t do it, and still have nightmares, cold sweats and physical reactions to miserable math memories? A mere mention of statistics or calculus at a cocktail party can elicit a rejoinder from a complete stranger. More often than not, the immediate response is to move quickly to the bar or for you to be privy to a retelling of someone’s earlier trauma.

Math was never my strongest area of study. I wish that it had been easier for me to master or to at least be more comfortable with the material. If I had a time machine, I would happily jump in and request a redo with new instructors and the wisdom of a more fully formed adult to tackle all forms of math. Treating it like the elephant in the room and avoiding it when possible, also changed my career path in ways that I didn’t understand until much later on. I have coached enough unhappy attorneys, who in part, chose to study the law because they were not math/science people. While that is not the full explanation for all dissatisfied attorneys, too often it is a very common refrain; a choice by default.

What doors would a proficiency in math have opened up? Larry Summers, late of Harvard University suggested that so few women become scientists and engineers because of discrimination, preference and even differences in innate ability. Outrageous? Of course, yet many women continue to pick up on this negative stereotype and opt out in advance. Have you ever dined with friends who declined to “do the math” when the bill arrived? Have you ever dined with friends who announced they could not read the menu? The latter is a highly unlikely scenario unless it was for wont of reading glasses. So, illiteracy is shocking but lack of math proficiency is somehow understood? Why is this behavior more commonplace among women? In mixed groups I have yet to see a woman grab the check to do the calculation and yes, it is just as likely that she could do it.

Yes, of course women CAN do the math, determine the tip and divide the charges on a meal tab. However, it’s time for the rest of the world to catch up. In a recently published paper from the Academy of Sciences, three business school professors set up a lab experiment in which managers were given an “implicit association test” to measure gender bias in math and science. “The very people who are biased against women about math, are also less likely to believe that men boast about their skills, so they are picking up a negative stereotype of women but not so for men.” In fact, when the same managers were tasked to hire people based on the outcomes of mathematical tasks that they performed equally well, managers of BOTH sexes were twice as likely to choose a man.

What can we conclude? Bias does exist and Larry Summers was dead wrong. So if you ever have the opportunity to join him for a meal, be sure to smile and let him pick up the check!


Spring Clean Your Closet

dresses-300x218Should it go or should it stay? Each season I approach my closet with a mindset of reorganizing everything to make way for shifting clothes from one space to another. It’s the kind of task that is energizing in anticipation of warmer weather and fewer layers to consider. There’s a beginning, middle and end if I can remain focused and unattached to the garments. Sometimes it is very straightforward and sometimes there are stops and starts, events to recall, and reminders of places where I’ve worn a particular outfit. Good thoughts and others mix in with the texture, fragrance and times of the past season…evocative and worth the pause to summon up memories.

However, when getting down to the real business of a seasonal closet reorganization it is easy to get off track and lost in the land of wishful thinking. Sometimes it calls for a merciless extraction exercise to leave you with physical and psychological space. It’s time to purge using the following guidelines:
• Stained
• Doesn’t fit now, didn’t fit then, won’t fit in this century
• Not trendy
• Smells
• Doesn’t convey the right message
• Worn out
• Wouldn’t buy it now
• You keep trying it on but wouldn’t wear it out of the house

Separate work wear from casual clothing. Does your go to “power outfit” still convey a strong image or is it dated? Five pairs of black pants may no longer be in style and/or not fit properly. Take your time and be honest with yourself. This is an opportunity to organize your wardrobe and simplify your morning routine.

Lastly, a reason often overlooked is the clothing you connect with a bad memory. It might be the gorgeous coat that you splurged on but you associate it with the winter you lost your job, faced a difficult family situation, got dumped or were going through a rough patch. Toss it! If it’s a piece left behind by a painful ex, a previous friendship, or anyone negative. Toss it! When you purge your closet of bad memories it is empowering and now baggage free, you can shop for replacements, adding things that you love!


Claim Your Space

powerposeswomenHarvard professor and researcher Amy Cuddy recently delivered an inspirational keynote address. This was of particular note as she wasn’t supposed to become a successful scientist. In fact, she wasn’t even supposed to finish her undergraduate degree. Early in her college career, Cuddy suffered a severe head injury in a car accident, and doctors said she would struggle to fully regain her mental capacity and finish her undergraduate degree, yet she persevered despite the original prognosis.

Cuddy’s research at Harvard Business School confirms that our body language communicates information to others that shapes their perceptions of us. It also communicates information to us that shapes our own self-concept. We can construct how powerful we feel by assuming expansive body poses.

In “Power Posing: Brief Nonverbal Displays Affect Neuroendocrine Levels and Risk Tolerance”, Cuddy shows that simply holding one’s body in expansive, high-power poses for as little as two-minutes stimulates higher levels of testosterone, the hormone linked to power and dominance in the animal and human worlds, and lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that can, over time, cause impaired immune functioning, hypertension, and memory loss. These power poses led to an increased sense of power and risk tolerance.

In other words, Cuddy states that we can fake confidence and power by using expansive body language to change our body chemistry and our feelings. This is especially useful in preparing to speak to a group or in any situation where a self-assured image is important. Whether you face a challenging subordinate, a complex negotiation or a difficult relative, this is a quick way to gather your composure and tap into your power. Begin incorporating the pose into your daily practices, thereby reducing stress and adding greater self-assurance. Claim your space!


Career Exploration-Other Places to Get Started

greatest-strength-greatest-weaknessSometimes you think that the answer, the key to what path you should be pursing is right in front of you and you just can’t see it. Unlocking your approach is a first step. Below are questions that can help in getting started with your self-interview.

1. What topics do you enjoy helping others with?

2. What topics do friends, co-workers, managers, or family members call on you for help with?

3. What subjects make you want to share what you know with strangers, peers, and acquaintances?

4. What problems make you want to discover a better way of doing something?

5. What topics are you drawn to find out more about?

6. What are your favorite books and/or movies?

7. What subjects are represented by the books on your bookshelves?

8. What did you always want to be when you grew up?

9. What subjects fascinated you as a child?

10.What life experiences or life-changing events make you want to share what you’ve learned with others?

11.What process or set of steps do you do regardless of the topic or task at hand?

12.What tools, equipment, or raw material do you like to use in your work?

13.What characteristics describe your favorite clients or customers? (Age, gender, belief system, cultural/ethnic background, life stage, education level, income level, problem or life situations, shared interest, lifestyle, particular talent, etc.)

© MWeisner2017